GSA Under Fire for Building Safety Efforts

Problems could pose fire, safety and health risks to GSA building occupants, contractors, personnel, the public and federal property.   December 12, 2022

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

Maintenance and engineering managers face constant pressures to ensure the safe operations and condition of institutional and commercial facilities. From OSHA standards to fire and life safety codes and beyond, the safety compliance challenges related to protecting the health and safety occupants and visitors can seem overwhelming. Federal facilities are no exception to these demands, but they are struggling to meet the challenge. 

General Services Administration (GSA) management of building safety measures is critical because problems could pose fire, safety and health risks to GSA building occupants, contractors, personnel, the public and federal property. But recent audit reports have demonstrated that GSA faces challenges in this area, according to the its inspector general. 

For example, in February 2022, the inspector general reported that the GSA’s Public Building Service (PBS) failed to comply with federal regulations and its own policy for asbestos management at the Chet Holifield Federal Building. As a result, CHFB tenants, visitors, contractors and PBS staff were at increased risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials. 

The inspector general found that PBS: 

  • does not maintain a reliable asbestos-containing materials inventory for the CHFB or update the CHFB asbestos management plan 
  • failed to notify building occupants of the presence and location of asbestos-containing materials in accordance with federal and state regulations and PBS policy 
  • is providing inadequate oversight of the CHFB operations and maintenance service contractor. 

The inspector general also found that PBS’s asbestos policy contains ambiguous and conflicting information, which can result in inconsistent application of the policy by PBS staff and failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations. 

In March 2022, the inspector general also reported that PBS has not identified all high-risk uses of space under GSA control because it is not effectively managing its fire, safety and health program. As a result, PBS has not taken measures to eliminate or mitigate potential fire, safety and health hazards arising from high-risk uses of space or identified and addressed all incompatible occupant activities. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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